The butterfly in the spiderweb

The butterfly in the spiderweb

Many years ago when I worked at an addictions treatment center, I saw a client who was trapped both in an addiction as well as a dysfunctional relationship. We happened to be sitting outside during our session and as my client talked incessantly about her difficult situation we both watched a tiger swallowtail butterfly become trapped in a spider web. As we watched the butterfly attempt to flap its wings in the sticky thread, my client instinctively got up and tried to free the insect by knocking down the spider web with her flip-flop while whispering sadly to herself, “This is me! This is me!”

How often have you felt like my client, like the butterfly in the spider web, trying to extend and flap your wings yet unable to free yourself from the confines of your current situation? At one time or another in our life, we all feel like the butterfly, yearning to transform yet stuck in the web of our circumstances.

My client somehow managed to free the butterfly from the web, however now we both stared at the motionless butterfly lying still on the ground. My client put her flip-flop back on and went back to her seat, as we both stared at the seemingly dead butterfly on the grass. She too sat unmoving like the butterfly, no longer talking, now just sitting in stillness, as tears began to surface in and around her eyes, then slowly rolling down her cheeks. The stillness of the butterfly had allowed her to stop her never-ending activity and feel her emotions for the first time in possibly years. And I just sat across from her witnessing this numinous experience.  Suddenly, we began to notice the butterfly’s wings barely moving, then flapping open and closed as it miraculously rose from the grass and flew onto my client’s shoulder where is sat for a few extraordinary seconds before it disappeared into the cloudless sky.

The famous psychologist Carl Jung said, “synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.” All around us are perfect mirrors to our experiences, however most of us are too caught up in the activity of the ego to notice them. If you are aware enough to tune into the frequency of your soul, you will begin to discover that similar to your inner landscape, the outer world mirrors back your experience in a myriad of forms, wether that’s through nature, people, situations or experiences.  If you open your eyes and choose to see with true awareness, answers will be subtly and sometimes not so subtly provided.

This profound experience of my client watching a butterfly become stuck in a spiderweb, then actively choosing to get up and free the suffering insect was the catalyst that began a lasting change in my client’s life. The active decision to free the butterfly was a metaphor for her eventual choice to free herself. The experience of watching the butterfly lie on the grass was enough to create a sense of stillness in my client, which created space for her feelings to surface. And then, the butterfly’s apparent resurrection and flight into freedom gave her hope that she could transform and eventually heal her life.

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Dr. Jenni Silberstein


  • Monica

    I had a similar experience- freeing a butterfly from a spider web. Thinking about it just now, I searched butterfly and spiderweb; learned that it is rare for butterflies and moths to be caught in webs due to special scales on their wings;… my web search also led me to this page. My experience was not in the context of therapy. Early one morning last summer, I experienced a sense of urgency to go out to my little garden where I discovered, in the lavender, the distressed butterfly, wings outstretched, motionless in a super fine web.. ( this was much earlier than my usual waking time so I had to force myself to respond to the sense of urgency.) I blew on the web to shake the butterfly loose… the butterfly fluttered its wings and flew to the next flower.

    i noticed the word synchronicity on this page and decided to comment, which is not my usual way to be. Feels like I’m supposed to comment.

  • Monica

    my butterfly experience occurred during summer 2019. it crossed my mind today. i feel incomplete if I leave a detail from a story. 🙂

  • Vaneya A Lewis

    I dreamed of something like this, last night. I watched this beautiful butterfly get caught in a web I tried to save it and it ended up breaking free from the spider web and all of a sudden I was surrounded by millions of beautiful butterflies.